Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mantegna: The Nativity and the Incarnation

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
The Baby Jesus in a Manger
Miniature on parchment
27,3 cm x 28,3 cm
Ms. Lat. IX, 1 (3496), c. 133v
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
The Adoration of the Shepherds
c. 1455-1456
Part of the polyptych of San Zeno of Verona
Wood transposed onto canvas
40 cm x 55,6 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
Madonna and Child with Seraphim and Cherubim
ca. 1460
Tempera and gold on wood
Arched top, 17 3/8 x 11 1/4 in. (44.1 x 28.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist
c. 1500 - 05
Oil on canvas
62,9 cm x 51,3 cm
The Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
THe Holy Family with the Family of St John the Baptist
c. 1500
Oil on canvas
40 cm x 169 cm
Basilica di Sant'Andrea, Mantua (Mantova)

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
The Adoration of the Magi
c. 1495 - 1500
Oil on canvas
54,6 cm x 70,7 cm
The J.P. Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
The Adoration of the Magi
Tempera on wood
86 x 162 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
Presentation in the Temple
c. 1460
Tempera on cloth
67 x 86 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Andrea Mantegna (1431 - 1506)
Madonna with Sleeping Child
Tempera on canvas
43 x 32 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

"For today [Christmas] the Maker of the world was born of a Virgin's womb, and He, who made all natures, became Son of her, whom He created.

Today the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and That which had never been visible to human eyes began to be tangible to our hands as well.

Today the shepherds learned from angels' voices that the Saviour was born in the substance of our flesh and soul; and today the form of the Gospel message was pre-arranged by the leaders of the Lord's flocks , so that we too may say with the army of the heavenly host: Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace to men of good will. ...

[Y]et today's festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary: and in adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life.

For the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.

Although every individual that is called has his own order, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time, yet as the entire body of the faithful being born in the font of baptism is crucified with Christ in His passion, raised again in His resurrection, and placed at the Father's right hand in His ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity

"In a great number of works of art, Jesus Christ - he for whom, according to Saint Peter, everything was created and in whom everything subsists - appears as a baby.

The paradox of a God incarnate, and therefore also of a God as a newborn or as a little child, is represented in all of those cloths, frescoes, mosaics or sculptures, which during many centuries of Christian art have attempted to depict the infancy of the Son of God.

While it is the case that the Gospels recount little about the first years of the life of the Redeemer, the artists have always tried to use their imaginations to remedy this poverty of details, and the patrimony of depiction's where Jesus is portrayed as a baby is very vast.

Many episodes of the infancy of Christ have been translated in visual language: the Nativity, the Adoration of the shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation at the Temple and the Circumcision of Jesus, the Escape to Egypt, Jesus and the Doctors. And that is aside from all of the representations of with the Sacred Family or the Madonna with Child ...

Many sacred writers, in reality, have meditated on the extraordinary fact that the Word, come from the Father, as the perfect God and not susceptible to any development or growth, had made himself similar to us, and therefore child, made to grow in the body and the intelligence, from the first steps of childhood, slowly towards maturity. The artists contemplated this enigma even more than the theologians. "

(Alessandro Scafi, Christ in the World of Art )

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